Beelitz-Heilstätten is a town south-west of Berlin that once housed a sanatorium and medical complex sprawling over several square kilometers. The buildings are now quietly peeling and decaying, spread throughout the town. I was living in Berlin during the early part of the year and took a couple trips out to see the remains of the hospital.
You’ll see the first set of abandonments as you get off the train; the train station itself is abandoned and shuttered. You can see the remains of some huge brick building or another with marble columns, shattered stained-glass windows and Cryllic graffiti (mementos of the building’s use by the Russian army after the war) from almost all parts of town. However, the town never completely died even though the hospital that occupied so much of its area shut down. People walk with their dogs and their prams around the buildings; it’s just a part of town.
I have done a good deal of urban exploration over the years; this was notably a theme of Blick zum Objekt, a project I’d shot in abandoned industrial facilities on the west coast of the United States during 2006 and 2007. At Beelitz, however, I wasn’t trying to make any social critique or commentary. I was simply using the space for its visual texture. Ultimately, this kind of thing is more or less what I produce when I do travel photography. Living in Berlin, shooting an editorial look in this type of location just made sense to me.
Taking a fashion crew into this type of environment is quite interesting. One often has to climb through windows or scale the sides of buildings; navigate through pitch-black, wet basements; avoid a number of perils, from asbestos to blind drops to broken glass and squatters. I’d spent two full days scouting buildings in the area for visually interesting locations that were still safe for the team.
In this concept, I wanted to express the texture of how Berlin felt, without necessarily shooting an environment where every surface was covered with graffiti. This expresses the texture that I felt walking around, feeling the chill of winter recede from the bones of the city.
Many thanks to my team! I am incredibly grateful for the talented people I have the opportunity to work with, especially when our ideas take us to unusual or challenging locations and situations.
Photography and Realisation: Thomas Park
Hair and Makeup: Romy Medina (www.romymedina.com)
Fashion Styling: Alba Diaz Navarro (www.albagador.com)
Model: Svenja @ Satory Management, Berlin (satory.site.netwalk.eu)